I find these points illuminating because it reminds me that people back in the day were not primitive idiots. There was a very sensible logic to how they waged war. Ultimately, everyone back then wanted to live comfortable long lives like we do.
Another point: After losing so many troops in a singular battle, the Romans changed their tactics. Instead of grouping their entire army as a massive 80,000-man strong Phalanx, they split up their armies into smaller groups, so that their eggs weren't all in one basket anymore.
Hannibal's trick to encircle and kill many roman troops in a single battle was never going to be repeated: the Romans learned of their mistake and made the necessary reforms to protect their troops.
The Battle of Cannae would go down in history as a military example of how to line up all your troops for potential slaughter. Future generals and tacticians would forever know of that battle and how to avoid those conditions.
Most generals and soldiers would seek a battle of annihilation: if destroying the entire enemy force is possible they will attempt it. The problem is, its very, very difficult to achieve in practice.
As such, simply routing the enemy, is sufficient for most military goals.
> Pitched battles were far more common in the ancient world (think Persia, Macedon, Rome, etc) – this is a product of the larger size and greater organizational capabilities of those armies.
Consequently also in antiquity, most engagements where sieges rather than set piece battles.
The whole "battles were rare, sieges where common" is a trope I believe some YouTubers started, but I don't think there's any solid pattern. Ancient armies pillaged the countryside to provoke encounters. Steppe peoples did pitched battles all the time because they didn't build walls. Medieval Europe may have had more sieges than battles because of religious homogeneity, but you can see how that model falls down soon in the thirty years war: if you don't engage the enemy they'll loot and pillage you to oblivion. Your people see how you are unable to protect them and desert you.
Another distinguishing factor is the widespread building of castles. During the classical era, fortifications were less useful because there were powerful states that could capture them anyway. But when even the nominal king or emperor had trouble mustering a force of fifty thousand men, the castle vs. the siege (and the raid) dominated most warfare. During the classical area many of those same places would have been sparsely populated, and certainly not well fortified.
Defensive structure really only made sense in specific border regions. There however large empires certainty did invest in such defenses. Border cities that were ready to be under siege and that could host an arriving army.
A Legion numbered 3000-6000 combat troops around the time of Cannae. The Romans had mobilized additional forces for this battle, and this included an increase in the number of legions as well as the size of some. It is probably more accurate to say that about eight legions (Romans and allies) were destroyed.
Fun fact: the South East Asia was safe guarded from the Mongolian invasion because they was stopped 3 times at Vietnam. The Mongolian had heavy casualties from all 3 of the grand campaigns, despite overwhelming number and was forced to retreat.
The entire Song military of 1m+ and god knows how much irregulars first exhausted its supplies by chasing a more mobile enemy across the central plain, and then defeated with "defeat in details" taken to its extreme, after Song understood that they can't match Mongols in open fields, and decided to go on defensive.
As Mongols set on fire more and more cities, Song's giant military started emptying granaries as they retreated south. With each lost commandry, Song was loosing more and more of its grain production, while having to dig deeper, and deeper into its reserve.
During the second invasion wave, Mongols had to set just few more major granaries on fire for Song military's grain consumption to exceed its production. After that their supply shortage started to snowball, and they lost almost all of its military to rout and desertion within a few years.
I'm not sure how "exceptional" a multi-generational war was in medieval or ancient times.
There were Five Crusades between ~1100 and ~1300 for example. The Chinese Warring States period was 475 BCE to 221 BCE. Japanese Sengoku period (A similar "Warring states" era) was 1467 - 1600. The Hundred Years' War was 1337 to 1453.
There were times of peace, and then there were times of conflict. Sometimes conflicts that last centuries.
What is interesting about that particular war though is that it did span the literal generations of the Barca family, of which Hannibal was a member, and for whom at least two full generations that I know of all became leading generals in the Carthaginian army.
Rome is also somewhat unique in that they were basically in a state of perpetual war after a certain point in their history. War begat war, especially as the territory grew and the results of victory were wealth and prestige for the families involved.
I would argue that the Romans allowed themselves to be surrounded in the Battle of Carrhae by forming into a block. They got pinned and were badly defeated.
Had to google this one.
> A rout /raʊt/ is a panicked, disorderly and undisciplined retreat of troops from a battlefield, following a collapse in a given unit's command authority, unit cohesion and combat morale (esprit de corps).
Wikipedia has more https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rout
Killing seems to be a lot easier when done to a fleeing enemy. Something about running away makes one a juicy target.
Some veterans and historians have cast doubt on Marshall's research methods. Professor Roger J. Spiller (Deputy Director of the Combat Studies Institute, US Army Command and General Staff College) argues in his 1988 article, "S. L. A. Marshall and the Ratio of Fire" (RUSI Journal, Winter 1988, pages 63–71), that Marshall had not actually conducted the research upon which he based his ratio-of-fire theory. "The 'systematic collection of data' appears to have been an invention." This revelation has called into question the authenticity of some of Marshall's other books and has lent academic weight to doubts about his integrity that had been raised in military circles even decades earlier.
In his 1989 memoir, About Face, David H. Hackworth described his initial elation at an assignment with a man he idolized, and how that elation turned to disillusion after seeing Marshall's character and methods firsthand. Hackworth described Marshall as a "voyeur warrior", for whom "the truth never got in the way of a good story", and went so far as to say, "Veterans of many of the actions he 'documented' in his books have complained bitterly over the years of his inaccuracy or blatant bias".
"On Killing" was not written by S.L.A. Marshall, but by Dave Grossman.
I know a few people have attempted to check this thesis by examining how many historical weapons we have are loaded, or reconstructing battles with laser beams. I'm still skeptical because it's so counterintuitive and old science never replicates, but I don't think "On Killing" has fallen apart yet.
- Most humans naturally don’t want to kill
- Getting soldiers to do so causes them serious trauma
The psychological model put forth in On Killing matches the Milgram Experiments. The specific elements being proximity and relation to both the authority and the target.
Modern armies have adapted their training to account for the proposed human reluctance to kill a fellow human and seem to have lowered that threshold effectively.
Further, other historians have found more evidence to support the notion that most soldiers did not partake in killing. These include muskets containing multiple balls, or staging a battle against a band of cloth, finding much higher accuracy than when firing at a real enemy.
Then again, the author claims that violence in media is partly at fault for our current woes. A notion that I believe has been disproven.
The relationship between media and violence may not be direct, but I suspect it's there.
To my knowledge, much was just shield bashing, posturing, and manoeuvring. It’s very hard to convince a group to close in on an enemy.
Problem is, that would make for a very dull film. Logistics, waiting, posturing, passively starving out a city. No speeches, no charging sword aloft.
The notion that we’re only marginally more intelligent than our ancient predecessors is quite a beautiful one I think.
That said, roman were the first in 100s years to achieve that, so its fair to say that most of the time you are right.
"Total War: Warhammer II" underlines both these statements.
I'm surprised that more sophisticated management of supply lines never seems to have caught on much in RTS games. The basic practice still seems to be that logistics are handwaved away and your units just spawn wherever you want (or where your factory is) provided you have enough money in the bank.
I could imagine a game quite fun where you actively have to transport troops and resources to the front and where building, running (using automation) and defending/attacking supply lines is integral part of the game. I guess the result would be something like a cross between Command & Conquer and Factorio or Transport Tycoon.
The handwaving of logistics can also lead to some surreal moments in RTS single-player campaigns when the hero characters somehow manage to bring huge armies with them wherever they go, even if the story establishes that a place is difficult to get to even as a small group.
Kudos for Blizzard and the design of the Zerg here, which turns that kind of awkwardness into an actual part of the story.
1. Gold can only be used to buy from European powers. You can't buy goods or units in America, you have to physically move them there with ships or wagon trains.
2. Civilians and combat units are the same. Any civilian can pick up a musket and become a soldier.
3. Defeated units don't die. They rout and are "demoted": a dragoon loses their horse and becomes a soldier, and a soldier loses their musket and becomes a civilian.
4. You can build roads and temporary colonies. Each colony has free storage space.
My favorite tactic was to build a siege camp near the enemy colony, connect it with my colonies with a road, then use it as a supply base. I'd just spam dragoon attacks for as long as I had spare horses.
I'm sure this wasn't the optimal strategy, but it worked on "easy". More importantly, Colonization seems to be the only game where this is at all possible.
"The Italian troops in World War II were outfitted with noodle rations, and in the name of historical dogma, the player responsible for the Italians is required to distribute an extra water ration to their forces, so that their pasta may be boiled."
I remember there was an old game, Napolean 1813, that has some level of supply management in the form of needing to build a chain of supply stations in different cities to support nearby troops. The map of that game stretches from Paris to Eastern Europe.
Another game that has supply management is Hearts of Iron, where the map is the entire world. I mostly play other Paradox grand strategy titles, but people have jokingly called Hearts of Iron the "Best supply chain similator game"
Hmm, but even "Civilization" magically aways logistics for the most part. Units require "upkeep gold", but there's no real supply-chain that has to be built for units.
The "Rigs" in Advance Wars delivered oil to the frontlines. But its still simplified logistics, because "Rigs" had infinite oil in them. Still, it was a legitimate strategy to destroy enemy Rigs, cut off their supply-chain, and then wait for the enemy tanks to run out of ammunition or oil and starve them to death.
Although Advance Wars mostly turned into a game of turtling with cheap mechanized infantry (One of the best units for a given price). But the logistics was at least theoretically possible.
I know "war logistics" games exist, but they certainly aren't mainstream. Europa Universalis and "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" are famously "Excel Spreadsheet games", I've never played them but maybe they are more into logistics than other games.
As for Civilization, I've always treated it as a battle chess game rather than an actual strategy simulation game.
As you know, the maximum throughput of any connection is the buffer size divided by the round-trip time. If you're using horse-drawn carts to move food and forage, the buffer size will be quite small; carts don't hold very much and there aren't a lot of them. Horse-drawn carts are slow, so the round-trip time will also be quite long. A number of generals had the idea of supplying the army this way, but nobody could do it further than a few dozen miles because the round-trip times get so high. Before WW1 everyone figured that trains had solved the problem; you would just load your supplies up on big fast trains and send them right to the front. Unfortunately, armies really love blowing up the enemy's trains and railways, so the railheads were never as close to the front as anyone liked and they were always having to be rebuilt. There weren't enough motorized vehicles in the world to deliver all that tonnage more than 100 miles, so the fronts in WW1 were very stagnant. In WW2 there were tens of millions of trucks of all sizes, and the Germans estimated they could deliver sufficient supplies to the army as far as 400 miles from the railheads. Unfortunately, it's over a thousand miles from eastern Poland to Moscow, so that didn't go so well. Also, it's over a thousand miles from Tripoli to the Suez canal, so they didn't have much luck in that theater either.
If you want to read more on the subject, I recommend "Supplying War: Logistics From Wallenstein To Patton", by Martin Van Creveld. Great book.
A few years back there was a humorous review of the Battle of Hoth from "Empire Strikes Back" that was pretty cool: https://www.wired.com/2013/02/battle-of-hoth
EDIT: While the siege of Helm's Deep was perfectly done in the film, the Siege of Minas Tirith feels more like Holywood, very well done Hollywood but the difference between the two is deffinitely there.
Lord Curzon was rather rude to him about it.
(The character - a diplomat - was very clearly inspired by Lord Curzon.)
In a previous time, when Britain's place in the world stage was not as assured, it could be less lenient to them:
> Tolkien indicates that Orcs are "always hungry". Orcs eat all manner of flesh, including men and horses, and there are frequent hints of cannibalism among Orcs. Grishnákh, leader of the Mordor Orcs, accuses Saruman's Uruks of eating Orc-flesh, which they angrily deny. In Cirith Ungol, Gorbag suggests that Frodo (recently poisoned by Shelob) should "go in the pot"; Shagrat indicates that Gorbag could be "for the pot" for making such a suggestion. Shagrat threatens to eat a disobedient orc, and after killing Gorbag he licks his blood from the blade.
The interesting part is Uruks "angrily denying" eating ork flesh which might mean it was an insult to suggest they do. Furthermore, https://middle-earth.xenite.org/what-do-orcs-eat says the books give some descriptions of orcish cooking.
However, based on the overall attitude of orcs, I believe they would kill and eat each other to survive. But I think I was wrong to suggest that would be an acceptable solution to problem of long-term military supply logistics.
As you note, this is good evidence that cannibalism is not practiced by the orcs.
> In Cirith Ungol, Gorbag suggests that Frodo (recently poisoned by Shelob) should "go in the pot"; Shagrat indicates that Gorbag could be "for the pot" for making such a suggestion.
This isn't good evidence; the insult is suggested by the context.
> Shagrat threatens to eat a disobedient orc
Without some sort of context, this is good evidence that cannibalism is practiced.
> and after killing Gorbag he licks his blood from the blade.
But this isn't; blood licking is not unknown among humans either. (To be fair, neither is cannibalism, but they read pretty differently.)
> As you note, this is good evidence that cannibalism is not practiced by the orcs.
Institutionalized cannibalism is characterized by strict taboos about who can eat whom, when, and how. It would make sense for an insult between two related cannibalistic societies to be based on either "you fail to observe the taboos we both recognize" (a heavy put-down) or "you don't recognize our taboos / you have specifically disrespected us in the way you violated a shared taboo" (insults with deep roots; a likely
casus belli). In either case, angry denial seems like an orcish way to counter the insult without escalating a potentially volatile situation. So while cannibalism-related insult is consistent with societies in which cannibalism is never acceptable, among societies where the practice is formalized absence of such insults might have been more surprising.
A practice of eating your own kind -- but not other people -- would be consistent with everything mentioned above, but would be incredibly bizarre for humans. We are much more likely to eat other groups while never eating our own.
Orcs could be weird that way though. It's not hard to lay a basic conceptual foundation for eating your own kind and prohibiting other groups from eating your own kind.
No. For example, it may be unacceptable if the groups aren't at war.
> A practice of eating your own kind -- but not other people -- would be consistent with everything mentioned above, but would be incredibly bizarre for humans. We are much more likely to eat other groups while never eating our own.
Then humans are incredibly bizarre. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocannibalism
The most prominently mentioned example, though -- New Zealand -- was definitely not exclusive endocannibalism.
The exocannibalism page confirms that the Wari' also practiced exocannibalism.
The exocannibalism page that you found does say that the Wari are the only known example of both types of ritual cannibalism, which suggests that it's more of an exception than the rule.
I think I heard it was because of the Christian roots of his LotR writings: are orcs fully evil and impossible to redeem (which would go against Christian belief on salvation and some of the themes of the LotR) or could they be redeemed, which would be against how they are portrayed in the books.
On the contrary I'd imagine there was a deal of precedent for it, but probably not well recorded.
I've the vaguest recollection of inferences that crusaders in a North African situation resorted to cannibalism -- I'll have to look for the source on that.
The USMC calls that "campaigning". See MCDP 1-2 .
Campaigning is about which battles to fight and where. Strategy includes economic and diplomatic issues, but campaigning is purely military.
Military history can be divided into two parts - before machine guns, and after machine guns. Before machine guns, bunching up was good tactics. After machine guns, it was terrible tactics. Too much of WWI was about learning that the hard way.
Terribly good point! I want to refute you, but I'm not really coming up with much. Automatic rifles are just devastating. How did you come to this conclusion?
War elephants are a slight exception - the best tactic against them seems to have been spreading out and killing the driver with arrows or javalins - but it's less that bunching up was bad tactics and more that it wasn't enough; phalanxes could repel elephants fairly well, they just weren't good at actually taking them out of the fight.
Er, hatetobeapedanticfanboi, but...
There is a road north-south through Ithilien, and also a road east-west from Minas Morgul to Osgiliath. Where they cross was marked by the headless statue of the king. Frodo and Sam couldn't use the north-south road because of the large number of troops moving on it, including those moving up from the south to attack Minas Tirith.
"BOOK NOTE: In the film, Jackson has split the host of Mordor into three groups (the fleet, the Haradrim and the Orcs) each of which moves and arrives as a single unit. As discussed above, this is insufficient to resolve the overwhelming logistics problems of such large armies. However, the books largely resolve this issue."
Sigh. Pedanticfanboimode wasted.
"Naval supply, by riverboat or by ship, is far more efficient than overland supply (moving supplies by water is roughly twenty times more efficient than moving the same supplies by land in the pre-modern era)."
I want the reference for that.
From part II:
"As Clausewitz says (drink!), “Everything in war is very simple, but the simplest thing is hard.”"
Yeah. A Clausewitz drinking game.
[Edit] "Book Note: In the books, Denethor is nowhere near this stupid (this will be a theme)."
I'm glad somebody else saw this. Jackson really screwed up the plot arcs of the humans in the movies.
Another post  says that "The usual estimates for transit costs derive from Diocletian’s Price Edict, a late Roman law setting standard prices for things, including transport."
> One of the real lessons the study of the past has to teach us is – to quote L. P. Hartley, “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” What I mean by that is that so much of how we assume all societies work and all people think is just how our society works and we think. Properly done, the study of the past can disabuse us of this silly notion and show us that smart people in different times and different places did things all sorts of different ways. But this lesson is ruined if we construct caricatures of the past wherein people living long ago were just big stupid brutes with big stupid weapons.
He likes to comment on the ergonomics of operating and maintaining tanks. But he also discusses why the USA mainly build medium tanks during ww2, and how and why they were more maintainable than their european contemporaries. (An ocean away from their factories, they had to be)
What I am missing is an detailed view on that aspect from true, modern day experts. But for that you would need more than one person to cover it in a meaningful way.
Heck, I'd like to see someone compare 14 day campaigns from WWI that Tolkien could have known about and see which one he reproduced in his books.
The flanking maneuver is done, but with actual humans, not with ghosts.
He is of the opinion that elephants were okay (not great) on battlefield, but awful in terms of logistics, supply usage and breeding. A horse reaches adulthood in 4 years. An elephant needs 15, and pregnancy lasts over 3 years. There are no known examples of breeding elephants. Supply-wise, you could have 1000 cavalrymen or 54 elephants. He says the main reason India widely used elephants - aside from proximity - was to show off status.
Also, don't make fun of J.R.R. Tolkien - he fought in trenches of WW1, on top of strong familiarity with medieval warfare because of all his reading.
"My ‘Samwise’ is indeed (as you note) largely a reflexion of the English soldier—grafted on the village-boys of early days, the memory of the privates and my batmen that I knew in the 1914 War, and recognized as so far superior to myself."
If not for Gandalf using his own metaphysical powers to give hope to the soldiers, I imagine the gondorians would have become inactive with shock due to terror and dread in the airwaves.
And the communication and intelligence that flying wraiths would allow is no small asset. Part of the advantage of a walled city is a view of the enemy approach while hiding your own formation. Good areal surveillance eliminates that advantage for the defending side.
The only canonically named Ringwraith was Khamul, the Witch-king's number two. (Roleplaying game company Iron Crown Enterprises once put out some nice but totally unofficial names for all the Nazgul.)
Oh dear, now I'll have to read it all again just to check.
Edit: Superb book, horrifying and laugh out loud funny (although not in the same places).
Edit2: BBC/HBO please do a version of the Laundry Files once you are finished with HDM!
Oh, and to make it less obvious, you better announce a few minutes earlier that a plasma storm is forming in the upper atmosphere.
They have force fields with a critical flaw (harmonic resonance means any energy weapon using the same frequency as the shields can just shoot right through them) but whenever this is even mentioned, the shields have to be re-adjusted manually.
Unauthorized people can appear on the ship, and crew can vanish from the ship, and the computer either doesn't notice, or does and never alerts anyone or activates any sort of countermeasures. The first officer can be sucked into a pocket universe and have his organs rearranged by non-Euclidean bug monsters and no one will ever know unless they happen to ask the computer where Riker is at the moment.
It's been established that transporter buffers can be used to "back up" a person, even long term (in the TNG episode "Relics," Scotty is discovered having stored himself in a transporter buffer for decades with no ill effect.)
Replicators can't do latinum and living tissue, but they work by literally converting energy into matter and assembling it into something atom by atom. At that resolution, there's no difference between anything and anything else, so there's no reason why replicators shouldn't be able to replicate anything.
The former two items, along with the holodeck (which can create sentient life on request, BTW) should guarantee that no Federation citizen ever truly ages or dies, or even ever has to exist in a physical body. The Federation should be a post-human, post-singularity society. Yet for "plot reasons," none of these glitches (like the transporters being able to clone people simply by refracting the transporter beam) are ever harnessed for their real potential.
Was there some kind of prearranged signal? A diplomatic code adhered to even by enemies? Just a general preference on all sides concerned preventing headaches and vague unheimlich feelings of discomfort? So many questions…
If I was harassing the federation I would keep my ship at an awkward angle relative to theirs at all times just to keep them on edge.
I was totally fine with the other plot holes though.
"Within a solar system, directional references were always made to the world outside a ship so other ships could understand them. Anything above the plane of the system was up, anything below it down. The direction toward the sun was right, or starboard, (or even 'starward' as some urged), while the direction away from the sun was left, or port."
Ehh. Ahh. "Port" and "starboard" should be relative to the bow/stern axis of the ship. Otherwise you'll have a hard time finding the head.
Another, non-game example of where weapons tech can take you, is Perry Rhoadan. german science fiction started in the 60s. Perry Rhoadan becomes immortal and leads humanity, and for periods the whole galaxy, for thousands of years. There you see actual technological progress, often stolen from other races. It leads to a point where a deus ex was used by authors to reign it back in (hyperspace resistance increased rendering everything too advanced useless). Point is, at the height of it, single shot starship weapons had aroud 2,000 GT TNT equivalent of energy, ships carried a lot of them which had and could be aimed at almost light speed to single point (in the physical sense as they had multilayered shields that could only be penetrated by point-fire, every "point" of the shiled had the same strength). i only wondered how ground combat would look like, as the battle armor and robots carried the same tech. I would assume a city would be reduced to sub-atomar dust within the first 10 minutes of an engangement or so.
but from a technical point of view it made sense, same for power generation and computers (even if computers also got the actual processing power development wrong). Nice thing, they used real world ISO units for the most part, not like start trek which just throwns around units to sound scientific.
Some ship examples: Accelaration: up to 980 km/sec^2, overlight factor up to 60 million, energy directly from hyperspace. So you can see why that, from an authors perspective, had to be rained in. when travel to the next couple of galaxies can be done in a private yacht, things get a little bit to crazy.
EDIT: Typos, a lot... Sorry for that!
They miss, and they miss a lot. Firefights in Star Trek look mostly like firefights everywhere else - beams and bolts flying through the air, and every now and then someone gets hit.
One interesting aspect is that TNG-era phasers used by protagonists don't even look like practical weapons. I read somewhere that this was intentional design decision - Starfleet was supposed to be about peace and exploration, so they didn't want the protagonists carrying something recognizable as a gun. Star Trek back-tracked a bit from that later on, with introduction of phaser rifles that look not unlike something you could really see on a battlefield of the future. But back to the TNG phasers - because they're shaped more like a flat flashlight than a gun, they really must be tough to aim. I mean, try taking a laser pointer and hitting something a couple meters away from you with the first click of the button. It's hard. In my headcanon, phasers must run some sophisticated auto-targeting systems - otherwise, the feats of accuracy seen on the screen would be impossible.
Source: Star Trek Design, by Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens
But if I keep thinking in-universe style, the Star Trek / Federation culture on surveillance could have come from some hard won failures earlier on.
The future would likely include lasers as some kind of a weapon, which indicates to me that engagement ranges would be so massive that even light will have a significant amount of travel time.
Ok at that point the avionics fit for a fire team would buy a small starship.
Didn't another officer enter the transporter with Scott but not survive the process?
I don't remember, but it's still feasible in-universe. Transporter accidents happen anyway.
Inertial dampeners that work well enough to prevent everyone being turned to jelly by accelerations but leak enough to toss people around the bridge.
Disintegration rays that somehow know to stop disintegration at the soles of boots. The floor never gets disintegrated.
For better or worse, Star Trek is teleplay.
(Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved Star Trek. TNG and DS9 in particular).
John Carpenter's Dark Star covers this a little, but mainly for laughs.
Most episodes seem to script around the need for air support, but I remember one case where it was at least acknowledged on-screen - one DS9 episode had a ground assault at an enemy position to destroy a under-repair gateway in it, and it was said early on that the surrounding building was strong enough that a torpedo strike from orbit would not necessarily destroy the target.
My personal favorite case of missed opportunity is the use of transporters to beam armed torpedoes directly onto enemy ships. It was used once in a Voyager episode. It's an obvious, but sadly plot-killing tactic, that hasn't been sufficiently hand-waved away in the lore, so one has to wonder why nobody uses it.
The StarGate series actually took that option seriously (the series was much smarter when it came to combat). In it, to the dismay of the species that provided humans with transporters, human ships often beamed nuclear warheads onto unsuspecting enemy vessels, achieving seemingly impossible victories.
Transporters cannot penetrate shield, usually either incoming or outgoing. Usually.
Except when they can, due to frequency matching, "technology generation" mismatch between shields and transporters, and countless of other one-off workarounds that happened. Think of every episode in which the Enterprise/Defiant/Voyager was boarded while in combat.
But even when considering the regular case of shields blocking incoming and outgoing transport, there's plenty of opportunities to use transporters offensively. They could be used as surprise first strike weapon to initiate hostilities by immediately taking enemy ship out. They could be used to finish off an enemy in a one-to-one fight. They could be used in coordinated fashion in fleet battles, where whenever an enemy ship loses shields, one ship drops their own shields and transports some photons over while other ships cover the vulnerable friend from immediate fire. Etc.
All in all, there are plenty of opportunities for offensive transporter use which were never explored in the series.
The shields have the fatal flaw that anything operating at the same frequency can go right through them, including a transporter beam. That's come up as a plot point more than once.
(Balrogs don't fly.)
Them's thar's fightin' words. :)
I don't have a copy of the old Usenet FAQ handy, but here's a tiny sample of the debate for any curious readers:
So even if the Orc-eats-Orc or Orc-eats-Man "supply" might work for a short campaign, the biomass must come from somewhere, initially.
"Neither he nor Frodo knew anything of the great slave-worked fields away south in this wide realm, beyond the fumes of the Mountain by the dark sad waters of Lake Núrnen; nor of the great roads that ran away east and south to tributary lands, from which the soldiers of the Tower brought long waggon-trains of goods and booty and fresh slaves. Here in the northward regions were the mines and forges, and the musterings of long-planned war; and here the Dark Power, moving its armies like pieces on the board was gathering them together."
But yes, cannibalism and human forage is not sustainable, but might stretch a 10 day supply to 15.
(There may also have been farms in the East that I'm not remembering. The East was definitely under Sauron's thumb, although perhaps not so firmly as he would have liked.)